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Month: September 2012

Louisiana Story (1946)

Louisiana Story (1946)

“This is no place for you anymore!”

Synopsis:
A young Cajun boy (Joseph Boudreaux) living with his father (Lionel Le Blanc) and mother (E. Bienvenu) is eager to engage with workers on the oil derrick that has just arrived in his idyllic bayou.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Although it’s lauded by numerous critics as documentarian Robert Flaherty’s finest achievement, Louisiana Story (his final film) “looks nice” but possesses a fatally underdeveloped script (which, ironically, was nominated for an Oscar). As Peary notes, the fact that “the film was financed by Standard Oil Company” may account “for Flaherty’s oddly romantic notion that the presence of the oil company will have no adverse effect on the environment” (a particularly egregious stance given the tragedy of recent oil spills in the region). Meanwhile, as Peary points out, “Flaherty spends a lot of time filming the derrick in action, but the workers look so bored that the scenes are dull”; indeed, none of the workers are particularly distinctive or memorable, and Boudreaux himself (a non-actor whose inexperience shows) lacks the requisite charisma to remain sufficiently engaging as the protagonist of the film. His interactions with his pet raccoon and his tussle with an alligator are decidedly tame, and smack uncomfortably of a Disney-fied view of nature.

As is now well-known, Flaherty’s “documentaries” were actually highly constructed narratives featuring carefully selected actors, thus rendering his fame as a forerunner of ethnographic filmmaking suspect at best. As I discussed in my review of Flahery’s breakthrough film, Nanook of the North (1922), such an issue remains much less problematic when the material itself is intrinsically fascinating: in Nanook…, for instance, one can easily understand why he may have “needed” to reconstruct key scenes, given the severe constraints of life in such harsh circumstances. In Louisiana Story, however, such a “sin” is less pardonable — particularly given that we actually learn very little about life for this Cajun backwoods family. As DVD Savant notes in his review of the film, “Pa is never seen doing anything more vocational than handling a small trap, and the son has nothing to do but amuse himself exploring the dangerous bayou”. Louisiana Story is a visually gorgeous but otherwise disappointing finale to Flaherty’s career.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine b&w cinematography by Richard Leacock

  • Virgil Thomson’s score

Must See?
No, though it will naturally be of interest to those curious about the trajectory of Flaherty’s oeuvre. Selected for the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 1994. Available for free viewing at www.archive.org.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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Importance of Being Earnest, The (1952)

Importance of Being Earnest, The (1952)

“I pity any young woman who isn’t married to a man named Ernest.”

Synopsis:
A wealthy bachelor (Michael Redgrave) going by the name of “Ernest” hopes to marry the daughter (Joan Greenwood) of arrogant Lady Bracknell (Edith Evans); meanwhile, Evans’ nephew (Michael Denison) — also posing as “Ernest” — falls in love with Redgrave’s beautiful 18-year-old ward (Dorothy Tutin). Troubles arise when Evans expresses concern over Redgrave’s dubious heritage, and both Greenwood and Tutin learn that their fiances are actually named something other than Ernest.

Genres:

Review:
Oscar Wilde’s final play — the initial production of which was infamously sabotaged by allegations of his homosexual “indiscretions” and his subsequent jailing — has been adapted for the big screen numerous times (including a 2002 version co-starring Reese Witherspoon), but this earlier adaptation by director Anthony Asquith is often cited as the most faithful and definitive version. Indeed, many critics complain that the film sticks too closely to its theatrical origins — a charge frequently leveled at Asquith, whose directorial style in general was more straightforward than stylistically creative. For my money, Wilde’s play is enjoyable enough to stand just fine on its own, and a more straightforward adaptation like this allows one simply to bask in its infinitely witty juices. Wilde truly was a genius at humorously skewering class relations, and his play was (thankfully) modified only slightly for the screen by Asquith, who refused to accept any credit for the work.

Although John Gielgud remains perhaps the most famous actor to perform as Jack/Ernest (he turned down an opportunity to star in this adaptation), Michael Redgrave is a fine — if perhaps slightly overage — replacement, and Michael Denison is perfectly cast as his roguish friend Algernon. Dorothy Tutin — who remained primarily a stage actress throughout her career — made her screen debut as Cecily, and is suitably youthful and naive in this critical role; meanwhile, Joan Greenwood purrs her way through a supporting performance as Redgrave’s betrothed, and Margaret Rutherford steals the few scenes she’s in as Tutin’s German tutor. The film’s most famous performance, however, is given by Dame Edith Evans, who played the role of Lady Bracknell for several decades on stage, and whose incredulous intonation here of the line, “A handbag?!” remains oft-cited.

Note: Watch for some delightfully florid hats worn by the various women in the cast; the Technicolor cinematography brings out their hues quite nicely.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell
  • Michael Redgrave as Jack (a.k.a. “Ernest”)
  • Michael Denison as Algernon (a.ka. “Ernest”)
  • Dorothy Tutin as Cecily
  • Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen
  • Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism
  • Colorfully ornate hats and costumes
  • Wilde’s incomparably quotable dialogue: “Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit; touch it, and the bloom is gone.”

Must See?
Yes, as the “definitive” cinematic adaptation of Wilde’s classic play.

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Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

“The only one thing I ever been good for is lovin’.”

Synopsis:
A small-town Texan (Jon Voight) heads to New York City in hopes of making a good living as a gigolo for wealthy women. Instead, he finds himself hustling to survive, and relying on the friendship of a down-and-out con-artist (Dustin Hoffman) who dreams of moving to Florida.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while this infamous cult movie — the first “X-Rated” film to win a Best Picture Oscar — “has humor and moments of warmth”, it nonetheless possesses a “cruel edge” which he believes is generated by the “America-hating director, John Schlesinger, who seems to enjoy victimizing [the two male leads] in the name of America”. From what I’ve read, Schlesinger’s relationship with America was actually much more nuanced than Peary indicates (he grew to love Los Angeles), and I can’t quite agree with Peary that the film’s “cruel edge” has anything to do with how its director chooses to “treat” the characters. Peary further complains that “scriptwriter Waldo Salt doesn’t… include any scenes in which the men open up to each other and discuss their deepest feelings or their past”, yet he praises both Voight and Hoffman (who he names Best Actor of the Year in his Alternate Oscars) for giving “excellent, sympathetic portrayals” which allow us to “understand both the reasons for and the depth of their friendship”.

In the remainder of his review, Peary labels Schlesinger’s use of flashbacks as a “technical imposition” which merely exhibits “his desire to use film to play with time,” given that we “never find out” how a gang-rape endured by Voight and his girlfriend (Jennifer Salt) “affected him”. I disagree: while it might be nice to understand a bit more about these and other earlier scenes from Voight’s life, we clearly understand that he comes from a troubled background, which is enough to help us sympathize with his desire for a better life in NYC. Similarly, we don’t find out much about Ratso’s background, or even learn exactly what illness causes him to cough so persistently — yet what’s most important here is that he and Voight find each other and develop a most unusual companionship in the midst of abject poverty. Their (mis)adventures together, while certainly often depressing, always ring true, and are (ironically) tinged with an air of subtle optimism given the obvious loyalty they’ve developed towards one another; indeed, despite a decidedly heartbreaking ending, I can think of a hundred different ways the storyline for Midnight Cowboy could have been even “crueler” than it is.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jon Voight as Joe Buck
  • Dustin Hoffman as “Ratso”
  • Sylvia Miles as Cass
  • Adam Holender’s cinematography
  • Excellent use of Harry Nilsson’s instantly memorable rendition of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin'”

Must See?
Yes, as an historically relevant cultural icon of late ’60 cinema.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

“Group W is where they put ya if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committin’ your special crime.”

Synopsis:
An itinerant folk singer (Arlo Guthrie) and his musician-friend (Geoff Outlaw) visit a couple of friends (James Broderick and Patricia Quinn) at the church they’ve converted into a restaurant. When Guthrie gets arrested for littering after a Thanksgiving feast, he recounts his experiences dealing with both the police and the draft board.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Arthur Penn Films
  • Counterculture
  • Musicians

Review:
Arthur Penn’s big-screen follow-up to Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was this loose adaptation of Arlo Guthrie’s beloved 18-minute folk song-narrative about a series of outlandish yet true events that occurred in Guthrie’s own life several years earlier. The song itself is a delightful musical monologue — witty, off-beat, and wonderfully representative of its era; Penn’s misguided movie, unfortunately, literalizes the elements of Guthrie’s song in such a way that any deeper insight or enjoyment is completely lost. The song clearly needed to be “expanded” to fill a feature-length film, but the resulting narrative threads — primarily focusing on the troubled relationship between Broderick and Quinn, and a young drug addict (Michael McClanathan) who comes between them — are both underdeveloped and uninteresting. The primary storyline appears to be a quasi-biography about Guthrie’s own life at the time, given that he’s shown making several visits to the deathbed of his father, Woody Guthrie (played by Joseph Boley) — but we learn surprisingly little about Arlo’s past or present, other than that he seems persistently bemused by the events occurring both to and around him. Interestingly, Arlo is now a Libertarian and member of the Republican party, indicating that perhaps he really did get fed up with many aspects of the counterculture lifestyle depicted here.

Note: Those who have never heard (of) the song this film is based on will be even more lost as to the relevance of any of the proceedings on-screen — not a good sign for any adaptation.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some enjoyable musical numbers

Must See?
No; skip this one unless you have a personal interest in the subject matter. Listed as a Cult Movie and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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Sleuth (1972)

Sleuth (1972)

“There’s nothing like a little bit of mayhem to cheer one up.”

Synopsis:
An aristocratic mystery writer (Laurence Olivier) invites his wife’s lower-class lover (Michael Caine) to his house, proposing an elaborate game of calculated heist that quickly turns into a much more serious cat-and-mouse affair.

Genres:

Review:
Joseph Mankiewicz’s final film as a director was this adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s hit Broadway play, about a successful mystery novel writer who revels in the opportunity to utilize the “tools of his trade” as he engages in an increasingly taut game of cat-and-mouse with his wife’s lover. The storyline is full of so many spoilers that, as most reviewers have noted, it’s best not to read too much about the film ahead of time if you want to remain surprised throughout. With that said, I’ll keep this review rather short, simply noting that both Caine and Olivier’s performances are spot-on throughout, and that Mankiewicz’s direction of a decidedly house-bound play is consistently innovative and fresh, with excellent use made of various props around the house. Enjoy!

Note: Not surprisingly, it seems that Shaffer was “partially inspired” by his game-loving friend, Stephen Sondheim, who co-wrote (with Anthony Perkins) the similarly plot-twisty thriller The Last of Sheila (1973).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Laurence Olivier as Andrew Wyke
  • Michael Caine as Milo Tindle
  • Fine direction by Mankiewicz

Must See?
Yes, as a most enjoyable thriller.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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Shock Corridor (1963)

Shock Corridor (1963)

“Tell me about her braids.”

Synopsis:
An ambitious journalist (Peter Breck) persuades his reluctant girlfriend (Constance Towers) to pose as his sister in order to convince a mental hospital that he’s acting in an incestuous manner and needs to be committed. Once there, he’s determined to uncover the truth behind a recent murder by interrogating the three inmates (James Best, Hari Rhodes, and Gene Evans) who witnessed it. But can he maintain his own sanity in such a challenging environment?

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that “more than any other film, Sam Fuller’s cult favorite” — about an “immature, dishonest, self-serving crime reporter… who attempts to win the Pulitzer Prize by solving a murder that occurred in an insane asylum” — “treads a fine line between art and trash”, given that despite the “stilted” dialogue, “every few minutes one of the characters says something more honest and brave and moving than we are used to in American cinema” of this era. He argues that the “film thrives on sensationalism”, with “all the sexual content… solely intended to make the picture lurid”, but “beneath the sleaze is a mature, sad-eyed view of America, where people are encouraged to strive beyond their capacities for accomplishment and to do their country proud even if they can’t accept responsibility or fame”.

Peary’s review nicely highlights the unexpectedly hard-hitting nature of Fuller’s screenplay, which is all the more surprising given its obvious B-movie context and production values. Many viewers will find themselves groaning during the heavy-handed opening sequence between Breck and Towers (his “stripper girlfriend”), as Towers laments Breck’s “self-serving” motives for feigning insanity, and shrills some humorously hysterical dialogue: “You’re on a hopped up, lunatic stage — get off it! Don’t be Moses leading your lunatics to the Pulitzer Prize!” However, once Breck actually enters the asylum and begins encountering his fellow inmates, the tone immediately becomes at once more serious and more bizarre.

The three witnesses Breck is specifically interested in interrogating are all deeply damaged souls, indicative of all that’s most secretly corrupt about American society. The most memorable is undoubtedly the character played by Hari Rhodes — an African-American who, after a failed attempt to integrate into an all-white university, has internalized extremist racist attitudes to the point where he believes he’s white; he dons a Klan hood, harasses a fellow African-American who he claims is “after his daughter”, and carries around an inflammatory sign saying, “Go Home Nigger”. Best and Evans are also haunting in their portrayals as (respectively) a brainwashed Korean War vet and a guilt-ridden nuclear scientist, and Breck’s roommate — the overweight “Pagliacci” (Larry Towers) — adds yet another bizarrely damaged character to the milieu.

Further highlighting the surreal nature of Breck’s experience is Stanley Cortez’s “shadowy cinematography”, as well as the strategic use of special effects, including Towers appearing superimposed over Breck’s resting head (taunting him in her stripper outfit), and the photographing of “midgets at the end of the corridor set so that it would appear to be longer than it was”; close inspection quickly reveals that the same sequence of the midgets pacing back and forth was looped many, many times, but it’s still effective. This utterly unique cult favorite is one film fanatics won’t want to miss seeing at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stanley Cortez’s cinematography

  • Fuller’s surprisingly hard-hitting screenplay

  • Fine supporting performances by Best, Rhodes, and others

Must See?
Yes, as a unique cult classic by an iconclastic director.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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Magnificent Ambersons, The (1942)

Magnificent Ambersons, The (1942)

“There aren’t any old times. When times are gone, they’re not old, they’re dead.”

Synopsis:
An up-and-coming industrialist (Joseph Cotten) loves the wealthy daughter (Dolores Costello) of a local millionaire (Richard Bennett), but they each end up marrying someone else. When Costello’s spoiled son (Tim Holt) grows up, he falls for Cotten’s daughter (Anne Baxter), and Cotten renews his interest in Costello — but Holt’s disdain for Cotten prevents romantic happiness for all involved.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of Orson Welles’ adaptation of “Booth Tarkington’s [1918] Pulitzer Prize-winning novel,” Peary recounts just some of the film’s infamous production history, noting that “while Welles was out of the country, editor Robert Wise and his assistant, Mark Robson, were ordered by RKO to drastically cut the 131-minute picture that preview audiences didn’t like”. He argues that while many “critics now regard the mutilated version as being equal to Citizen Kane and other Welles classics”, he doesn’t “consider this to be one of his masterpieces”, and bluntly states that “the cutting hurts terribly”. However, he argues that “even if it were intact, it seems to be missing a lead character”, given that “Tim Holt’s George Minafer hasn’t enough stature to carry the latter part of the film”. Despite his complaints, however, he does concede that “Welles presents what may be the most effective look at late 19th-century small town life”, and notes that “the early montage, depicting changing styles… is memorable”. He feels that the “acting is uneven” but calls out Agnes Moorehead’s Oscar-nominated performance (playing Holt’s spinster “Aunt Fanny”) as “dynamic”, “especially when projecting near hysteria in her scenes with Holt”.

I don’t quite agree with Peary that the film is “missing a lead character”. As Peary himself notes, the “story, which is set between 1883 and 1912,” is more broadly about “the decline and fall of the Ambersons-Minafers, and the simultaneous modernization of their once-quaint small town — all due to the industrial revolution, which is emblemized by the advent of the automobile”. It’s this larger socio-economic theme which Welles is concerned with exploring, through the prism of Holt’s hopelessly spoiled and arrogant George Minafer, as well as through the star-crossed would-be romance between Costello and Cotten (who become Holt’s unwitting pawns). Ultimately, …Ambersons is more a film about clashing values in a life-changing era than any kind of straightforward melodrama with a recognizable central protagonist — which is perhaps what disappointed so many audience members at the time of its release.

However, one tends to watch The Magnificent Ambersons even more for its undeniable artistic merits than for its storyline. As Peary notes, “Stanley Cortez’s creatively lighted deep-focus photography is extraordinary”, with “the scenes in the snow and the scenes in the Ambersons’ mansion… among the most visually striking in all of Welles’ [oeuvre].” Some have complained about Welles’ penchant for utilizing overly stylized camera angles at every opportunity, but a more pedestrian approach would surely have detracted from the film’s relentlessly intense emotional impact. Even in its “butchered” form, The Magnificent Ambersons remains a flawed but stylistically ambitious classic, one which is certainly worthy of any film fanatic’s attention.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joseph Cotten as Eugene Morgan (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Agnes Moorehead as Aunt Fanny
  • Consistently creative direction by Welles

  • Stanley Cortez’s impressive deep-focus cinematography

  • Bernard Herrmann’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a unique — albeit flawed and disputed — American classic. Listed as one of the Best Pictures of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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Kings Row (1942)

Kings Row (1942)

“Now, in this modern and complicated world, man breaks down under the strain and bewilderment, disappointment and disillusionment — gets lost, goes crazy, commits suicide.”

Synopsis:
In a small American town near the turn of the 20th century, an aspiring psychiatrist (Robert Cummings) loves the troubled daughter (Betty Field) of a renowned doctor (Claude Rains) who mentors him in his new career. Meanwhile, his happy-go-lucky childhood friend (Ronald Reagan) hopes in vain to marry the daughter (Nancy Coleman) of the town’s surgeon (Charles Coburn), but turns to another lifelong friend (Ann Sheridan) for companionship.

Genres:

Review:
Based on the best-selling novel by Henry Bellamann, Kings Row is primarily known as the film where Ronald Reagan gave the best performance of his career — and though I haven’t seen all of Reagan’s movies, it would be hard to argue with that assertion. Indeed, while the movie’s nominal protagonist (“Parris Mitchell”) is played by Robert Cummings, Reagan’s “Drake McHugh” remains a much more fascinating individual to watch, as he shifts from a carefree existence as a trust-fund playboy to a young man with surprising levels of depth, loyalty, and honor; we can’t help but become inextricably involved in the arc of his troubled existence. Supporting performances by the large cast are fine as well — including Ann Sheridan as the girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” who falls for Drake, and Nancy Coleman as the daughter of a “mad” surgeon (Coburn) and his wife (Judith Anderson).

The multifaceted storyline — involving numerous romantic longings, family secrets, mental breakdowns, and other squalid details — was (not surprisingly) toned down quite a bit from the original novel, with a resulting screenplay that feels generally sordid yet a tad opaque at times. For instance, while we see how overly protective Dr. Tower (Rains) is of his sheltered daughter (played first by Mary Thomas, then Betty Field), the film doesn’t share with us the fact of their incestuous relationship (as revealed in the novel); instead, we’re left simply with countless “Don’t ask!” retorts by the increasingly disturbed Field, who is mysteriously forced by Rains to stay home from school at an early age. Indeed, Rains’ performance feels the most confusing in the film — he’s portrayed as a willing mentor to Cummings, yet clearly is ruining his daughter’s life, and thus can’t be seen as the type of life-altering “hero” Cummings builds him up to be.

Regardless, Kings Row remains an admirable counterpart to other cinematic depictions of small-town American life at the time, given that it concedes the need for psychiatric intervention at a time when “psychiatry” was an unknown term, and daringly portrays the presence of a “mad” surgeon whose nefarious practices are clearly far from Hippocratic. Meanwhile, both James Wong Howe’s atmospheric cinematography and William Cameron Menzies’ strategically designed sets contribute to the creation of a world which feels both familiar and spooky at the same time. Also of note is Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s soaring score, which was apparently a direct influence on John Williams’ work for Star Wars (1977) years later.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ronald Reagan as Drake
  • Fine supporting performances


  • James Wong Howe’s cinematography
  • William Cameron Menzies’ sets

Must See?
Yes, for Reagan’s tour-de-force performance, and as a fine melodrama in its own right. Listed as a film with Historical importance in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

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Return of Martin Guerre, The (1982)

Return of Martin Guerre, The (1982)

“Never was a husband so maligned!”

Synopsis:
In 16th century France, a young man named Martin Guerre (Stéphane Pean) leaves his wife (Sylvie Méda) and child to go off to war. Eight years later, a man (Gerard Depardieu) shows up in town and convinces his family and neighbors that he is Martin — but his uncle (Maurice Barrier) remains skeptical, especially when Martin insists on being paid the profits his land has made during his absence.

Genres:

Review:
Based on an infamous real-life court case, The Return of Martin Guerre remains one of the most fascinating tales of contested identity in both cinematic and historical memory. Depardieu gives a fine, earthy performance as the man claiming to be Martin Guerre (who may or may not be telling the truth), while Nathalie Baye’s nuanced portrayal as his abandoned wife (Bertrande) allows us to feel every moment of both her confusion and her tentative joy. The nicely paced script spends just enough time on each facet of the compelling story, moving from Martin and Bertrande’s earliest years of unhappy marriage, to Martin’s surprise arrival in town years later, to the brief period of renewed contentment Martin and Bertrande experience before suspicions are raised and Martin is put on trial (first informally, then in court). If you’ve never seen the film before, or can’t quite recall how it resolves, you’re guaranteed to be kept in genuine suspense. Meanwhile, the attention paid to period detail is enough to recommend the film purely from an ethnographic perspective, as we witness the fascinating minutiae of daily life for this village of hardworking, mostly illiterate, but seemingly content peasants.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gerard Depardieu as Martin Guerre
  • Nathalie Baye as Bertrande
  • Fine attention to period detail


  • Lovely cinematography by Andre Neau
  • Michel Portal’s unusual score

Must See?
Yes, as a compelling foreign drama. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

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Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

“It’s a bit fantastic, isn’t it? A well-bred English girl, living in the treetops with a glorified native apeman.”

Synopsis:
An Englishman (Neil Hamilton) and his friend (Paul Cavanagh) venture into the African jungle in search of an elephant burial ground, hoping to entice Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) to leave her new life with Tarzan the Ape Man (Johnny Weissmuller) and return to “civilization”.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Along with many other critics, Peary argues that this “second… of the Johnny Weissmuller-Maureen O’Sullivan Tarzan series” (a sequel to 1932’s Tarzan, the Ape Man) is the “best”. He notes that while “in future films, which were meant for family audiences, Tarzan becomes increasingly civilized and domesticated”, in “this adult film it is the lady, Jane, who reverts to her primitive nature and goes native”. He points out that while the movie “has a lot of action” (much of it quite exciting), the reason for its “cult status is that beautiful O’Sullivan wears one of the most revealing costumes in screen history: a tiny halter top and a loincloth that leave her thighs and hips exposed and little to the imagination”. Indeed, it’s rather stunning how much overt sensuality this pre-Code film manages to get away with, given that Jane (or her body double) “swims nude with Tarzan, is constantly pawed by him, sleeps in the nude, … [is] stranded in the jungle without clothes on … and is seen nude in silhouette when dressing in a well-lit tent”. Refreshingly, however, O’Sullivan’s character is not just sexy, but strong and independent — while Tarzan does rescue her time and again, in other ways she holds her own quite nicely, most notably in a climactic final scene involving fierce lions.

Note: In his review of TAHM for his Cult Movies book, Peary points out the similarities between this film and Bird of Paradise (1932), starring Dolores del Rio (married to Cedric Gibbons, who directed at least part of TAHM).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane
  • Plenty of astonishing pre-Code sensuality



Must See?
Yes, as the most infamous (and enjoyable) of the Tarzan/Jane films.

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